MAX Westside Light Rail

When Portland's Westside MAX light rail line opened in 1996, its precedents in urban transit design, engineering, accessibility, collaboration, and commitment to a larger planning vision became a model for other surface rail systems in the United States and other countries.

Westside MAX extends the Portland region's light rail line 18 miles west to downtown Hillsboro in the heart of Oregon's Silicon Forest through a three-mile, twin-tube tunnel under a thousand-foot-high ridge of hills. It was Oregon’s largest public works project at the time. It set design and economic development precedents. It built coalitions between TriMet and west side neighborhoods, and it introduced the first low-floor light rail vehicles in the country specially designed for easy access with strollers, walkers and wheelchairs.

Tri-Met brought the architects, artists, engineers and local citizens together as equal partners to deftly shape the system in a way that reflected and enriched the character of the communities surrounding each of its 20 stations.

The Communications and Substation buildings at the Civic Stadium station became art elements.
The Salmon Station emerged from 18th street as a center island platform.
When the sun shines on the Goose Hollow station shelters, ghost wings stretch out on the platform.

By adapting designs block by block, an uncommon rapport developed between community and station resulting in a greater patronage response than previously achieved by comparable systems in America.

Awards

In addition to a prestigious Presidential Award for Design Excellence and a U.S. Department of Transportation award in 2000, this project collected a long list of honors. In 1999, the Washington Park Station received the Building Team Project of the Year Award from Building Design and Construction magazine. The award recognized the cooperative effort of team partners in designing the project. That same year, the American Public Transit Association presented the light rail project with a first place spot in the national Livable Communities Transit Design competition. The project also received design awards from the Portland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Consulting Engineers Council of Oregon and the Associated General Contractors.

Presidential Award for Design Excellence

Year 2000, National Endowment for the Arts - Clinton Administration
"This is a powerful model for other car-oriented cities, showing how well it can be done and how this new technology can be integrated."

Design for Transportation Honor Award

Year 2000, U.S. Department of Transportation
"This project compellingly illustrates what is possible when architects, artists, engineers and contractors, along with city officials, collaborate and aspire to the highest design standards."

Meta

As an Architect and Landscape Architect in urban design with ZGF Architects, my involvement in this project began in the early planning phase with others analyzing, studying issues, and developing concepts for several rail alignments.

During the design phase, my focus shifted to the downtown Portland segment from the 11th Avenue turnaround on SW Morrison and Yamhill streets, to SW 18th Avenue and SW Jefferson Street to the tunnel. I was responsible for the design, project management, contract documents, and construction supervision of four streets, three stations, and the Lincoln High School fence.

My designs for light rail stations, traffic circulation, street paving, lighting, furnishings, trolley wire suspension, and plantings honored the unique qualities of Yamhill, Morrison, 18th Avenue and Jefferson streets.

My attention to detail and first-hand experience in construction catalyzed consensus for solutions that resolved numerous engineering constraints, reduced system maintenance costs, turned artist concepts into meaningful public structures, preserved the values vocally expressed by the Goose Hollow neighborhood, and enriched the riders experience.

Assigned also to the architectural contract documents phase of the Washington Park Station, my work turned innovative design ideas into original details and ways to protect facilities from heavy public use, theft, and graffiti.

Role: Architect, Landscape Architect

Setting: ZGF Architects, Portland TriMet - Urban Design & Planning

Location: Portland, Oregon

Year: 1990 to 1993